Higher software cost seen

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Beloit and Beloit Turner school officials say switching to Infinite Campus, another software provider, could prove costly for local school districts, perhaps by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We have invested considerable time, training and resources over the years in its implementation. It is a bit early to judge the impact of this decision by the state, but to say that we are concerned about the idea of having to change over from a system that currently serves more than half the districts — 220 in the state — to a new vendor is an understatement,” said Turner Superintendent Dennis McCarthy. “It is difficult to even estimate the amount of training that will be needed to retrain our staff to use a new management tool.”

McCarthy said everything done in the district, from grading to attendance to scheduling, will certainly challenge the staff.

“With the amount of mandates for change we are already implementing, this change will only further burden our staff and take time away from where we should be focused as educators,” he said.

Skyward Inc., based in Stevens Point, Wis., provides software to track grades, attendance and other information for schools and serves 220 of Wisconsin’s 424 school districts. The company filed notice with the state Friday that it intends to appeal the Department of Public Instruction’s order after it lost a $15 million contract that was awarded to a Minnesota company, Infinite Campus of Blaine, Minn.

Skyward Inc. said in a statement that it had filed the protest with Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, saying its bid was lower than that of the Infinite Campus. Skyward has threatened to leave Wisconsin if it loses the contract.

School District of Beloit Director of Technology Victor Masliah said Beloit has been using Skyward Student system for 20 years. On Monday he said all districts have been asked to convert their student system side to Infinite Campus in the next five years. The latest state decision only affects the Skyward Student side, as Infinite Campus does not have a business side.

“The longer we wait, the higher our conversion costs may be as we continue to enter more types of data into our Skyward Student system daily,” he said.

Masliah said 80 percent of Wisconsin school districts use the business side of Skyward, as it’s recognized to be the best business system for schools.

The student side of Skyward costs approximately $52,000 per year, and the business side costs about $66,000 per year. Transitioning a system brings significant costs in data conversions, data migrations and trainings. For example, switching to a different Student system could potentially cost between $200,000 to $450,000.

“To convert our Student system we would have to retrain all teaching staff, support staff, parents, and even students,” he said.

Infinite Campus provides software currently to about 10 percent of Wisconsin districts. The company says on its website that it provides statewide data-management software for five other states and has contracts with individual districts in 43 states.

Eric Creighton, the chief executive officer of Infinite Campus, said Skyward offered no substance to back up its intended protest.

Skyward employs about 270 people statewide, with most of them at its Stevens Point headquarters.

Democratic lawmakers representing the Stevens Point area have decried Skyward’s loss of the bid, saying it will hurt the state’s economy and lead to job losses.

The new data tracking system was to be in place in some districts this year and be operating statewide within five years. It is designed to make it easier for the state Department of Public Instruction to track data, as districts could more easily collect and share information about students including their academic performance and demographic information, aggregated by school district, school and teacher.

Moving to a statewide system is expected to save local school districts millions of dollars as they no longer have to run their own systems to track everything from student grades to their health records. School districts will be charged a per-pupil fee to use the statewide system.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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